“Hey Art,” the fictional interview opened, “you’re down your top two quarterbacks, your top running back, the best receiver in college football and your starting right tackle. How can you possibly hope to move the ball against North Carolina?”
The cocksure Texan took a swig of his iced tea and chuckled. “Watch me,” he said.
No. 17 Baylor (10-3) scrapped its high-flying offense for an entirely ground-based attack and set No. 10 North Carolina’s (11-3) defense on fire, beating the Tar Heels 49-38 in the Russell Athletic Bowl Tuesday night in Orlando.
Art Briles‘ Bears ran 102 plays on the night – 18 passes and 84 runs. The runs break down as follows:
- Johnny Jefferson: 23 carries for 299 yards and three touchdowns.
- Devin Chafin: 27 carries for 156 yards and one touchdown.
- Terence Williams: 16 carries for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
- Lynx Hawthorne: seven carries for 63 yards and one touchdown.
- Chris Johnson: nine carries for 36 yards.
Add in two team carries for minus-6 yards and you get 84 rushes for 645 yards — 7.68 a carry — and seven touchdowns. The 645 yards are a bowl game record, and Baylor surpassed the Russell Athletic Bowl rushing record in one half. Johnson led Baylor’s passing efforts by hitting 7-of-12 throws for 82 yards and an interception; Jefferson, Chafin and Hawthorne also completed a pass apiece.
Jefferson began the night with 701 yards on the season, and his 299 yards against the Heels put him at an even 1,000 on the season. For the year, Baylor finished with two 1,000-yard passers, two 1,000-yard rushers and one 1,000-yard receiver.
As for the game at hand, Baylor led 14-10 early in the second quarter until Jefferson busted back-to-back touchdown runs, giving the Bears a 28-10 cushion. North Carolina pulled back within four after Marquise Williams punched in a four-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left in the second quarter and a one-yard run to close a 75-yard march to open the second half.
After (however shockingly) two straight scoreless drives, Williams reached in for a three-yard score and, after a Heels fumble inside Baylor’s end zone, Jefferson opened the next possession by rushing 80 yards for a touchdown, nudging Baylor’s lead to 42-24 with 2:04 to play in the third quarter.
North Carolina would never pull closer than 11 points over the remaining 17 minutes.
North Carolina’s offense put up its share of yards, as Williams hit 22-of-36 passes for 243 yards with three touchdowns and one interception (that wasn’t his fault) with 17 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Elijah Hood rushed 13 times for 118 yards, including a 67-yard burst that was a Russell Athletic Bowl record until Jefferson’s 80-yard touchdown scamper three plays later.
Hood’s rush set the Heels up with a first-and-goal at the Baylor 8, and T.J. Logan‘s first down rush pushed the ball to the two. Aiavion Edwards punched the ball loose as Logan charged toward the end zone on second down, and Baylor’s Orion Stewart hopped on the loose pigskin.
Jefferson’s 80-yard blast on the next play ended any realistic hope North Carolina had of pulling the comeback.